The Secret of Life

photo by D Sharon Pruitt


Unbelievably, I’ve arrived at the end of the Year to Live project.  I’ve learned from others that the “dissolution of the body” meditation which symbolically closes the class is a powerful one.  Frankly, I’m scared of it.  One person I know who experienced it said that this exercise is so visceral that he actually lost control of some, ah, bodily function when he did it.  So – yes – there are many reasons to be resisting all of this!

Someone asked our teacher, a hospice chaplain, about the main regrets people share on their death beds.  Number one, our teacher answered, is that they wish they’d said “I love you” more often.  Number two is that they wish they’d taken more vacation.  That’s it.  We’re pretty simple creatures when it comes right down to it.

In homage to love and appreciation of the journey, I’d like to share a passage I’ve been thinking about over and over again for the past several weeks.  It’s from the book “About Alice” by Calvin Trillin honoring his late wife:

Once, for the program at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp [a camp for children with cancer and blood diseases] gala, some volunteer counselors contributed short passages about their experiences at camp, and Alice wrote about one of the campers, a sunny little girl she called L.

At camp, Alice had a tendency to gravitate toward the child who needed the most help, and L. was one of those.

“Last summer, the camper I got closest to, L., was a magical child who was severely disabled,” Alice wrote.  “She had two genetic diseases, one which kept her from growing and one which kept her from digesting any food.  She had to be fed through a tube at night and she had so much difficulty walking that I drove her around in a golf cart a lot.  We both liked that.”

“One day, when we were playing duck-duck-goose, I was sitting behind her and she asked me to hold her mail for her while she took her turn to be chased around the circle.  It took her a while to make the circuit, and I had time to see that on top of the pile was a note from her mom.  Then I did something truly awful, which I’m reluctant now to reveal.  I decided to read the note.  I simply had to know what this child’s parents could have done to make her so spectacular, to make her the most optimistic, most enthusiastic, most hopeful human being I had ever encountered.”

“I snuck a quick look at the note, and my eyes fell on the sentence: ‘If God had given us all of the children in the world to choose from, L., we would only have chosen you.'”

“Before L. got back to her place in the circle, I showed the note to Bud, who was sitting next to me. ‘ Quick. Read this,’ I whispered.  ‘It’s the secret of life.'”

Let me thank you all, once again, for sticking with me throughout!

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5 responses to “The Secret of Life”

  1. gail beck says:

    This is a beautiful post. Thank you so much, I’ve really enjoyed your journey and would love to receive any future posts you may decide to do. Thank you Barbara for sharing so eloquently.

  2. I am so pleased to see this post from you. I am so pleased for you.

  3. Sven says:

    Welcome back! That is a really beautiful story. Wishing you well in your “final” days. Big hugs and love.

  4. heddwch says:

    I have also enjoyed your journey and have learned a lot about myself and life, along the way. Thank you. I hope your final days are “refreshing” and awe inspiring for you. Good luck.

  5. Barbara says:

    Thanks to each of you for the heartfelt messages! I learn so much from each of you as well, and I hope we’ll be able to find ways to trade stories long after this blog has outlived its purpose!


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